He had half-expected it: she didn't reply once again, and everything was as it was the previous week. No amount of coercive drinking could alter the fact that she had finally decided that she's had enough of what he's been doing. It was the first week where he was present at three different drinking sessions, although he didn't drink much as he was a teetotaler most of the time. He had to be persuaded for a good amount of time before he would even pick up a bottle because that was how he was raised and that was how he liked it: beer was bitter to him and he never did enjoy it as much as he enjoyed the company that he was with.
They weren't always there for him, but they were there when he needed them most despite their quirks and their sometimes offensive behavior. They were there for him that night. It was the culmination of months of practice, where people dressed up as birds and attractive women in lace in order to impress and let go of themselves during that one night. He knew he didn't have much talent in dancing, although there was an instance where, to his shock, he sang because he was lovestruck, and it was decent. He wanted to help, so he acted as a propsman for the band, carrying and lugging their equipment whenever they needed help while enjoying the show during the downtime. Of course she wasn't around. She never was most of the time.
He expected the best from his batch's performance of lip synch, and he got it. He was pleasantly surprised, however, with the performance of the freshmen who combined the attractiveness of their women with such ferocious performances from them that he was intent on their presentation the whole time – and that was it. He met up with them after they returned the music equipment to the car of one of his friends, and they decided to drink because of his predicament.
'So, Sal, did she reply or not?' Jun asked him.
'That's it, then?'
'It's been a week since I thought that was it.'
'Are you going to tell her?' Les asked.
'Tell her what?' Sal replied.
'That you like her, you fucking moron,' Angel told Sal.
'I don't know. I'm tired of chasing pavements.'
'Fag.' Angel whipped back.
'What the fuck am I supposed to do, then? Pine for nothing?'
'Just tell her. I mean, you have no chance, but tell her anyway so that you won't regret anything,' spoke Les.
'I don't need to tell her anything. I think it's quite obvious and you don't need to be a genius to figure out that I like her, but if she's full of me then I think it's just folly to chase her around. I guess she's had enough of what I've been doing,' replied Sal.
'What have you been doing?' Jan asked.
'Something that you can constitute as stalking, I guess.'
'That's not stalking, that just being an admiring suitor,' Jun offered.
'Thanks, Jun. You're really a great friend. You lie to make me feel better,' Sal replied.
'Let's find somewhere to drink first, before we continue,' said Jun.
They walked towards a popular hotel at the center of the city, towards Freddy's, a place known for its cheap beer and ambiance during nighttime, where the noise muffles the things being talked about.
'Beer is cheap here,' Jun said after they set down.
'Then let's drink a lot,' Angel replied.
'I agree with what Les and Angel said, Sal,' quipped Top. 'Just tell her how you feel, because some girls are just that thick. At least in the end you'll never regret anything.'
'I hope to find time tomorrow. I tried to find time today, only to find him hovering around her.'
'Fuck him, Sal. Just tell her, because she'll never otherwise know that you're a better person and a better romantic than him,' Angel riposted.
'Just give her your poems, Sal,' Jun said.
'No, he shouldn't. It's not as if they're in a relationship, are they?' Les spoke.
'I'm fucking tired, man. I think I have had enough. I was just being thick about things. There is absolutely nothing between us and I'm just imagining things,' Sal replied.
'Are you going to stop?' Top asked.
'I'm going to see what I could do tomorrow. But frankly, I'm not expecting anything.'
'Sal, just tell her that you like her in all honesty, that it's your first time and that's why you've made mistakes all around. Because you can't tell her much else, really,' said Les.
'I agree with them, Sal,' said Jun.
'I'll do my best.'
The conversation degraded into who was the hottest in the class, and then spread into who was the best girl in other batches, until the conversation became a broken stream of thoughts that came with the number of Colt 45 bottles exhausted, until they were the last people in the bar and the waiters were just waiting on them to go out. By then it was three in the morning and a lot of them were struggling to walk outside. He drank a bit, but he knew he would never drink much, and was a lot more conscious than the inebriated zombies around him. He didn't have anywhere to sleep on, so he was grateful Les offered him a place to sleep even if only for a short while. Before that, however, his friends went out to purchase balut before going on a road trip to San Miguel.
As both he and Les had had enough, they went to his apartment. He slept for three hours before he went back home, as he had to prepare for the quiz bowl, most probably the last of his entire life in a state of drowsiness. All the preparation he could muster was stealing an hour of sleep before he did his ablutions and prepared to go to school for the competition. The only things in his mind were her and the drinking session the previous night. He had no preparation whatsoever, and he wasn't ready at all. He didn't expect anything as he had never won in the previous two years that he joined: he just wanted to do his best for the last time.
The rains had subsided and he was lugging his prehistoric laptop for Jun to use in a competition. While the others were busy reviewing with college entrance examination reviewers, he was walking around because he was drowsy. He didn't know much during the easy rounds, although his teammates were able to cut him some slack. By the end of the first round they were tied for the lead thanks to the teammate who was as geeky as him. His other teammate was their anchor in math and he got most of the math problems right. They were trailing by the end of the second round, but they were nevertheless second among all the teams, thanks to his knowledge in science questions and his other geek friend knowing the other stuff he wasn't that familiar with.
It was in the final round, however, where Sal finally managed to show the breadth of his stock knowledge. There was a series of three science questions that only he was able to answer and that solidified their lead over their opponents. He knew that the fifth state of matter was the Bose-Einstein condensate because he read a journal during his high school days regarding the forward progress of physical science; he knew that technetium was the first artificially-synthesized element because it was the 43rd element and it was the earliest white mark in the periodic table amidst a sea of black and blue; finally, he knew that platypuses were monotremes because he read a lot of encyclopedias and question and answer books back when he was still quite young that he remembered enough about them due to their uniqueness. Because he simply knew, they won their first quiz bee competition.
Sal felt even better knowing that she had been watching him, that even if she hated him or disregarded his presence she at least would know that he wasn't a pushover when it came to intelligence: she had to recognize that at the very least he was quite an intelligent guy who was able to trump the rest of his opponents as well as knew a lot about a lot. As some sort of revenge to her, he was quite pleased, because only gourds have the right to be bitter.